As Madison City Schools continue to grow, leaders explain how numbers impact next year’s budget

MADISON, Ala. - Many people know what it's like to want more than their budget allows, but growing school districts, like Madison City, work through budget constraints annually. That's because state dollars for schools are based on the previous year's enrollment.

"We receive funding in the state of Alabama based on our numbers from last year - 20 days after Labor Day," Superintendent Dee Fowler explained.

That means the number of students enrolled this year won't matter until next year.

"The big problem in Madison City is we are a district that continues to grow," Fowler said.

Madison City Schools is more than 300 students larger since Labor Day 2015.

"This year we have 18 teachers new and we will only receive $300,000 from the state for those 18 new teachers," Fowler said.

Superintendent Fowler said the district is left with a $1.2 million tab to take care of.

"In order to fund the $1.2 million, that means other projects are not being funded," Fowler said. "Those projects could be in the arts, those projects could be in the sciences, the AP, it could be foreign language, it could be elementary enrichment."

This type of budget shortfall is not new for a growing system.

"We grow every year between 200 to 300 kids, every year, so we face this bill every year," Fowler said.

Madison City, in particular, also faces a budget hurdle over the county's line.

"As you know, we have a $1.7 million loss because we're not receiving funding for 1,800 kids who live in Madison City, Limestone," Fowler said. "At some point, we're going to have to talk to our community."

Fowler added that by the year 2021, the district's high schools will reach capacity. The most immediate need is for a new elementary school as those have reached 95 percent capacity. Fowler said at some point they will have to look at different revenue streams to begin building more schools in the ever-growing district.